by Barry Fisher
You’re on a cruise relaxing on deck with a drink in your hand. On a whim, you turn on your SmartPhone… The words “Cellular at Sea” appear on your screen so you innocently assume it’s ok to make a couple of calls, tap out a text or two, view a video, and download an app. After all, you have an unlimited plan, right?
Wrong… There are several pitfalls in this happy scenario. If you’re getting a signal…you’re getting charged! Regardless of which service plan you have at home, it won’t apply on a cruise ship. Most cruise ships are foreign flagged vessels. In addition to the Cellular at Sea connection charges you just incurred, you’re also hit with roaming charges from your provider… but wait, it gets worse. Call Roaming and Data Roaming charges are often priced differently. Streaming music and videos, or downloading an app can quickly result in an astronomical cellular bill. Now how much will you pay? But you’re not done yet… The cruise line charges for cellular satellite service via Cellular at Sea and all this is billed by your cell phone service provider, not the cruise line…so you won’t even be aware of the charges until you return home…to Cellular Shock.
Fortunately, forewarned is forearmed.
Tips for Cruising with your smartphone:
SmartPhone in PDA mode.
You can turn Data Services and Voice Services off and use the SmartPhone as a PDA.
The best idea is to switch to Airplane Mode as soon as you’re on the plane and remain in Airplane Mode until you return home. Putting your SmartPhone in Airplane Mode turns off all your wireless services. Airplane Mode prevents the wireless services from searching for signals, prolonging battery life. You won’t be able to make calls, text or download data, but you can use your camera, music player and ebook reader to your heart’s content without getting charged.
SmartPhone in Wi-Fi mode.
You can turn Data Services and Voice Services off and use the SmartPhone in Wi-Fi mode. Putting your SmartPhone in Airplane Mode initially turns off Wi-Fi. When you want to access the wireless Internet aboard ship (or ashore), turn Wi-Fi back on. Toggling Wi-Fi while other services remain off gives you access to the internet and control over your bill. Of course, Internet charges aboard and ashore will apply.
What if you’re not on vacation or simply have to stay in touch?
Turn Data Services off and leave Voice Services on.
You can make calls and send texts without incurring data roaming charges in this mode. Cellular at Sea and Voice Roaming charges still apply onboard ship. Ashore, Voice Roaming charges will still apply.
SmartPhone in Smart mode.
This is the mode to use when you absolutely must stay in touch and require all the Bells and Whistles of your SmartPhone. You will incur Call Roaming, Data Roaming and Cellular at Sea charges while aboard and Call Roaming and Data Roaming charges ashore, but you’ll have full access to all the features that make your phone a SmartPhone. Set your Data Usage Statistics to zero before boarding the ship, that way you’ll be able to monitor your data usage on the cruise.
While ashore, you can alleviate these charges somewhat by purchasing an International Plan from your service provider. If you’re planning on purchasing an International plan to use ashore it’s a good idea to reset your usage statistics to zero a month before your cruise to obtain your average data usage. Buy the data plan that fits your needs. Remember, to monitor your data usage on the cruise, reset your statistics to zero before embarkation.
SmartPhone in Safe mode.
You can always turn your SmartPhone off and lock it in your room safe the moment you board the ship, there to remain until departure day… while you remain blissfully incommunicado… after all, isn’t that what vacation is all about?
Here are a few additional tips:
Uncheck Data Roaming. With Data Roaming unchecked you’ll never incur a data roaming charge. Some apps require Internet access and may be able to turn Data Roaming back on. You’ll have to disable these apps on an individual basis.
Turn off Location Services. This will prevent some apps from constantly trying to update your location. Alternately, you could turn off Update Location within each app using Location Services on an app by app basis.
Uncheck Data Synchronization. Data Synchronization consumes bandwidth keeping your accounts up to date.
Turn off Data Push. Some email accounts, like Gmail, push the data to your SmartPhone. This will incur data charges even if you don’t open the emails.
(These suggestions are generic to apply to as many SmartPhones as possible. All suggestions may not apply to all phones. Always check with your service provider before making any modifications to your phone or service.)